Age Lesbians and Aging
A recent study sought to understand the expectations and challenges faced by lesbians in their later years in the Boston and Outer Cape region. Focus groups were held with lesbians from all ages after an anonymous demographic survey. Through thematic analysis, themes were identified. The discussions centered on community, finances, housing, healthcare, and a sense of nondiscrimination. Participants identified the following as their top priorities in regards to their aging.
Community remained a recurring theme. People who wanted to age in their community for two reasons chose to do so: they wanted to be part of a strong LGBT social network and were protected from discrimination. Being close to friends was another reason people moved to their current area. More than sixty percent of participants discussed social support, making it the most frequently referenced theme. And, lesbians who are older than middle-aged still form close relationships with each other.
Age lesbians use ageist coping strategies to manage their situation. They distance themselves from old age by claiming that “age passes.” They avoid other lesbians perceived as elderly. They also discipline their bodies through diet and exercise. These strategies make them appear younger than they really are, but they also contribute to an overall lack of social acceptance in their communities. The result? The result? Lesbians avoid the unpleasant reality of old age, and its symptoms.
Cohort age has been shown to correlate with milestones in sexual identity. For example, the youngest LGB cohort reported having had their first sexual relationship at age 4.6 years earlier than their middle-aged counterparts. However, LGBs younger than their counterparts were more open to sharing their sexual identity with heterosexual friends earlier than their older counterparts. These differences were not statistically significant. And, in general, sexual identity milestones are more common among White lesbians.